Veganism and Philosophy?

Recently, Mike, Evan, and myself decided to become individual authors on the site, rather than just posting everything under the name “The Reasoned Vegan”. It got me to think about a pseudonym I’ve wanted to use on the internet for a long time: Pretend Philosopher. I’ve been holding onto this name for some time because it is both purposeful and funny. The purpose is to indicate that I ponder and discuss matters of philosophy daily, but I am not particularly versed in philosophy; in fact, I pretty much pretend to be a philosopher. So, in that spirit, let me do some pretend philosophy!

 

I want to speak very broadly about the philosophical components of veganism. Veganism is more than just a lifestyle choice, it is a conceptual framework that can be applied to multiple subjects, from ethics (right or wrong) to epistemics (what is truth) to existentialism (what does it mean to be human) and to science. Unlike many philosophical ideas, however, these are not simply abstract; they are, instead, entangled in our individual lives and entrenched in global problems. That’s what ultimately makes veganism both, because those abstract implications have such magnitude, they become present issues in our lives that we must reconcile with – whether it’s consuming a plant-based diet, purchasing products that aren’t derived from or tested on animals, or both. The principles, logic, and reasoning involved in veganism are so deep, so relevant, and so meaningful that it stops being abstract and starts being real.

One component that intrigues me is the epistemics, i.e. what is truth, etc. Adopting a vegan life challenges one to reject many of the myths and fallacies surrounding animals and nature. One must see through the things people purport as true and identify what truth really is. For example, while it is often believed that animal proteins are necessary for proper nutrition, the truth is that plant-based proteins can be just as effective if not more so. An even more disconcerting myth about meat is that it is necessary for humans in general. People often faithfully extol the virtue of humane meat when, truthfully, it doesn’t exist. What is so insidious about these falsehoods is that their cultural and temporal pervasiveness make them seem incontrovertible, rather than the misconceptions they really are. Vegans must deconstruct these falsehoods and realize what is true and why. The “why” questions come into play because we must have a basis for what we believe to be true, rather than succumbing to the dogmas that nonvegans tend to fall for and that we once did.

This is part of what makes veganism so amazing: It can be an abstract philosophy and a fulfilling lifestyle choice at the same time. And once one gets the epistemological elements understood, a lot of questions can be answered, and issues can be solved. Understanding Carnism is one major example of how this works. Carnism is basically the psychological framework through which people typically regard farm animals, which is with no moral worth or consideration. This theory explains a lot about the basis by which people evaluate farm animals. It also helps one realize the fallacy that farm animals are any different than other nonhuman animals, which lends itself to treating them with the same value and consideration as others. (Carnism is a profoundly deep idea.)

Philosophy is a practice of understanding concepts and truths. It involves identifying and analyzing all assumptions, premises, evidence, and conclusions of an argument; developing principles and theories, scrutinizing it all to ensure it is logical and reasonable; and applying them to real life and specific examples, comparing them to other alternative theories. Sure, this looks like a bunch of words and seems difficult, but I promise that it’s easier than it seems. I’m sure many vegan readers can see how they’ve done this in their lives. I challenge our non-vegan readers to try it out for yourselves, at least as a thought experiment. Begin thinking like a vegan. Extend your moral concern to the plight of the countless farm animals and other animals whose lives are exploited for frivolous purposes. Recognize the irrationality people employ when they talk about consuming animal products. Consider what a vegan life means for both these examples. Explore what other worldly and grand issues veganism can apply to. And then of course, after you’ve realized the intellectual validity of it, then go vegan!

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